Simply no excuse for this display

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches suffered their biggest home defeat of the season – and now face a fight to avoid finishing bottom of the Sky Sports Elite League.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches suffered their biggest home defeat of the season – and now face a fight to avoid finishing bottom of the Sky Sports Elite League.

Belle Vue, with just one previous away win this century, proved far too good for an under par Witches side that managed just three race wins.

Ipswich now have no chance of making the end of season play-offs and only the poor form of neighbours King's Lynn looks like keeping them away from the foot of the table.

This was Ipswich's fourth home league reverse of a thoroughly disappointing 2002 – and they have also drawn two meetings at Foxhall Stadium.

Ipswich have been excused criticism for some inept performances because of their catalogue of injuries.

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But they deserve all the stick they get for this thoroughly miserable display against an upbeat Aces team that leap-frogged Ipswich to move third from bottom and were superbly served by maximum-man Jason Lyons.

Witches promoter John Louis put on a brave face. Quite rightly he picked out the lack of punch from his three heat leaders as the principle cause of this debacle, but confirmed his desire to battle on.

"Jason Lyons scored more points than our three heat leaders put together," said Louis. "But we will battle on to get things right.

"It is not easy to make changes at this time of the season but it might come to that.

"We must now seriously start thinking about next year when we will be looking to challenge for the Elite League title."

Some Witches fans would like the club to look towards the Premier League in 2003, but Louis knocked that idea on the head.

"We might not have a side that is making a big impact on the Elite League right now, but we have no intention of dropping down from the best speedway league in the world," he said.

"On this showing I can't believe that Belle Vue have struggled so much. They have now started to click and were robbed of victory at Oxford on Wednesday.

"On a super race strip they looked superb tonight."

The Aces from Manchester, who won at King's Lynn last month in their only other away win in the last three years, used the rider replacement facility to cover for the injured Sam Ermolenko.

This accrued a paid six points, with intended replacement Stuart Robson on his way to the Czech Republic.

The damage was done by Lyons and his fellow Australian Jason Crump, while the rest of the team, apart from Blair Scott, gave great support.

It has taken far too long under promoter John Perrin's reign, but in theory Belle Vue now look to have a formidable side. And it was put into practice last night.

Craig Boyce won two races – including a commendable win over Crump – and Chris Slabon fought bravely all night. Joonas Kylmakorpi, perhaps the rider most under threat from any team changes, did well enough on his return, and Jeremy Doncaster's paid six points was par for the course for a second string.

But Scott Nicholls is obviously not fully fit after breaking his left ankle less than a month ago, and he scored his lowest total since his first league match last season on his return to Ipswich.

Once the visitors had used up two of young reserve Scott's rides inside the first four heats - and were still level - they were perfectly placed to make an impact.

Kaj Laukkanen was on top form, and he passed Kylmakorpi on the third lap to follow home Lyons for a 5-1 in heat five.

Steve Johnston guested for Jarek Hampel and could not get his act going – finishing last as Belle Vue extended their lead in the following heat.

The margin went to double figures in heat seven as Ipswich were left floundering at the start again.

Boyce stopped the rot in heat nine, with Kylmakorpi passing Tomasz Jedrzejak for third place on the third lap.

But after Johnston had crashed into the fence at the start of heat ten, the visiting pair won the re-run 5-1.

Ipswich then gave their fans some hope with a 5-0 after Laukkanen stopped at the start of the final lap when last, and Jedrzejak fell on the entry to the final corner when under pressure from Nicholls.

But a win by the super smooth Lyons in heat 12 and a 5-1 by Crump and Laukkanen in heat 13 sealed the match – and the aggregate bonus point for the Aces.

While they still feel they can climb up and make the top five, Ipswich are left with a battle to stay ahead of King's Lynn to avoid the wooden spoon.

N (SQUARE) Children under-15 will be allowed in free for next Thursday's home match against Poole, providing they are accompanied by a paying adult.